Misty Copeland is the 3rd ever African-American female soloist at the American Ballet Theatre (ABT). She has 5 siblings and a mom. Growing up with very little money, she started ballet at 13 at a Girls and Boys club in LA. Instantly, she was marked as a prodigy. In 3 months, she was en pointe. 8 months after starting, Misty performed Clara, the main female in the Nutcracker, with the San Pedro Dance Center. 2 years after starting ballet, she was awarded first place at the Los Angeles Spotlight Awards. As she matured, Misty grew out of the traditional ballet shape. She developed bigger feet, more muscular legs and a larger bust. Despite this, Misty was accepted into the ABT’s corps de ballet at the age of 19. At the age of 24, she was promoted to the rank of soloist. She was the first African-American female soloist in 20 years, and the last African-American male soloist that had been with the company had left the year before. Over the years, Misty has performed many roles including Firebird in The Firebird, Lead Harlot in Romeo and Juliet and the Fairy of Valor in The Sleeping Beauty. At the beginning of this year, Misty became a sponsored athlete with Under Armour. She is now a part of the “I Will What I Want” campaign run by them.
Misty Copeland and I are not the same race or class and whether or not we are of the same religious faith is irrelevant. However, we are both females and we both are ballet dancers (granted she is much, much better than I am). We also have limitations within our genetic make-up that cause difficulty in making it professionally. While hers is her race, mine is my lack of natural turn-out and my bone structure. In the world of professional ballet, women are forced to fit a certain cookie cutter outline or they get cut out. Ballerinas worry about their weight and size, freaking out if they are busty enough to be wearing a bra at 19, 20, up to even 25 or 30. I want to use this project to help me understand why society cares so much about how we look and how we are built.
I know I would never be able to be a professional ballerina. I’m too wide, too busty, too tall, my pelvis naturally tilts forwards, my hips are physically turned in and I have practically no turn-out. On top of that I am naturally very inflexible and have slightly weak feet. Though most of these limitations are things I can’t control, I’m still categorized as not good enough. And though I don’t dance professionally, these limitations come into play in my every day classes to a certain extent.
As I said, I want to know why these limitations matter to society and to the world of professionals. I want to use Misty Copeland’s experience as an African-American and someone that comes from a very low class to explore not only why they supposedly matter but how we can beat and escape these cookie cutters set by society.